Thursday, June 25, 2009

Despedida, TIWC style, full of fond remembrance of good times

By Nancy T. Lu
"Despedida" (Spanish word for “farewell”) for the departing heads of different official and de facto diplomatic missions in Taipei as well as their spouses on a nice Thursday evening brought back fond remembrance of happy times.

Picture-taking, gift-giving, and review of the scrapbook of photographs from outings overwhelmed the honored guests at the sumptuous dinner hosted by the Taipei International Women’s Club led by Connie Pong, the president, at the Taipei Garden Hotel in Ximending on June 25.

The ladies with gentlemen whose distinguished careers have been in the diplomatic service for their husbands had contributed diversity to the club during their stay in Taiwan. But they were leaving.

For Sao Tome and Principe Ambassador Ladislau d’Almeida and Eva d’Almeida, pleasant memories to bring back home would definitely include blazing a trail to the heartland of Puyuma culture in Taitung, Eastern Taiwan, not too long ago. This was a very special invitation to watch the Puyuma braves being welcomed back from their big hunting trip and survival test. Drinking the sweet rice wine while joining the ceremonial dancing seemed only yesterday’s experience. Swaziland Ambassador Njabuliso B. Gwebu as well as Nauru Ambassador Ludwig Dowong Keke and Ann Keke joined the bonding with the indigenous people on this occasion, too.

For Bela Istvan Laszlo, representative of the Hungarian Trade Office, and wife Julia Laszlo, recollections would include checking out the award-winning beef noodle places in Taipei. Unforgettable was one particular eatery in Ximending, where customers would place orders and then sit down together at a big table.

During his Taiwan posting, Laszlo managed to successfully pick up a few Sichuan recipes to cook at home such as “gongbao” chicken, wonton soups, and, of course, beef noodles.

The Laszlos will soon be back in Budapest to spend more time as doting grandparents to their grandchildren (the second one will arrive soon) and, perhaps, to welcome the peripatetic TIWC members to the land of origin of the goulash or gulyas and the country which Franz Liszt and Bela Bartok helped bring to great prominence on the world music map.

When the special cake, a gift from the Grand Formosa Regent of Taipei, was brought out, Laszlo did the cutting for the day happened to be his birthday. The Hungarian diplomat pointed to the TIWC’s founding year, 1951, and announced that he was born the same year.

Panama Ambassador Julio Mock Cardenas and wife Andrea Chong de Mock would always cherish memories of the warmth of friendship of the people in Taiwan. At the end of a meaningful almost five-year tour of duty, the diplomat and his family must move on. Mock would be going back to the practice of his original profession as a semi-retired engineer.

T. P. Seetharam, director general of the India-Taipei Association, along with his wife Deepa Seetharam would be flying back to New Delhi to pave way for the arrival of a successor from among five or six waiting in line to be appointed

“The men have no place in women’s clubs elsewhere,” remarked Seetharam. “But the TIWC is different.”

While serving his diplomatic tenure in Taiwan, Seetharam – who hails from Kerala in south India – even invited to Taipei a cultural troupe to introduce the Kathakali, the classical dance drama of Kerala, to the Taiwan public. The traditional Indian performers in elaborate costumes complete with masks even staged “Butterfly Lovers,” adopting the Kathakali form of mime and dance to tell the love story of Chinese folk origin.

Ambassador Ramon Antero Diaz Pereira and Gloria Stella Flores de Diaz would always remember and cherish the “sweet moments” spent with TIWC members. The Paraguay diplomat’s wife always lent a gracious and beautiful presence to the TIWC activities and events. Donning her national dress and with flowers tucked in her hair, she was a standout at the successful fashion show which the incredible Connie Pong organized not very long ago.

Mayumi Hu, who wore the green and yellow colors of the Brazilian soccer team last time, proved quite a revelation as the smooth-talking lady program emcee with Carlson Huang of Radio Taiwan International as her partner. The TIWC’s second vice-president was also the person who put together the scrapbook of photographs projected on the big screen during the “despedida” dinner.

Pictures said a lot about the participation in the TIWC’s activities. Smiles were all over the faces of the participants of the fun trips to Malaysia and India. Bali and Jakarta in Indonesia are the TIWC’s next travel destinations. The visit to Peck Hee Lim’s orchard in Hsinchu was covered. So was the encounter with the Taiwanese glove puppet theater experts.

Gerhard Pfeiffer of the Austrian Tourism Office and wife Beate Pfeiffer were among the honored guests but they did not make it. They are being reassigned to Beijing.

Lena Ou, wife of Foreign Minister Francisco H.L. Ou, understood very well the emotions of the ladies preparing to pack up and return to their homelands with their husbands. She knew what it was like to be continent-hopping and living in different faraway countries. As a very supportive wife, she accompanied her husband throughout his postings in five countries, including Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Spain for a total of 26 years before his appointment to the top post at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the beginning, she did not speak a word of Spanish. She is today very much at home in the language.

Those who also joined the dinner organized by the Taipei International Women’s Club (TIWC) included: Swaziland Ambassador Njabuliso B. Gwebu; Nauru Ambassador Ludwig Dowong Keke and wife Ann Keke; St. Kitts and Nevis Charge d’Affaires Jasmine Elise Huggins; Isaura Novelo, wife of Belize Charge d’Affaires Efrain Novelo; Raphael Gamzou, representative of Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei; Stanley Loh, representative of Singapore Trade Office in Taipei, and wife Kim Loh; as well as Carlos Alfredo Barcia, director of administration of Argentina Trade and Cultural Office, and wife Beatriz de Barcia.

Connie Pong, the incumbent TIWC president, worked very hard to ensure that there were no hitches during the memorable dinner event. She even rushed the printing of the name cards of the club’s officers. Mexa Chiu, her husband, showed once more his full support of his wife’s commitment to serve the TIWC members.

1 comment:

  1. Nancy -- you are absolutely an amazing reporter and did not miss a word and a second of the whole evening! loved reading your article -- as usual!

    Mayumi Hu
    TIWC 2nd VP